Last week, I talked abouthow much more difficult it is swimming upstream rather than just letting the Lord lead you. This week I’d like to give you some perspective in re-framing how you look at things.
Have you ever played that game where you look for red cars and you suddenly noticed red cars all over the place? Or have you ever bought a new car and then noticed them all over the road? God created us with certain filters so that our senses don’t get overwhelmed. We filter out so much that we never notice because, if we did notice everything around us, we’d never be able to concentrate on anything. That works FOR us in this case, but it does work AGAINST us in others.
If you are having a bad day, or a bad year, you are more apt to get negative and see a negative spin on everything–even when there isn’t one. I once posted an adorable picture of a puppy. Most people said how cute it was. One person said it was horrible of me to post it because her cousin, twice removed, was once bitten by a dog in Cleveland.
There’s always a tendency to be a Negative Nelly when we are struggling. It’s normal to do that for a short time. What’s not normal (or helpful) is to live in Negative Nellyland. If you see that you didn’t naturally leave Nellyland, here’s what you can do to guide yourself out. I know because I’ve been on this road myself.
It sounds too simple, but it actually works if you work at it. Look for the good and you’ll find more of it. It’s not hard, it just takes practice. Look for good in all bad experiences: what you can learn from it, how much God has helped you, how blessed you are… and you will find it more and more. Then watch our Lord work and see how much more joy you have!
I remember some stories from Sept 11th about how something went wrong and they couldn’t get to work that day…in the twin towers! Or they were late and missed being there when the plane hit. Some of those stories were frustrating until you saw the bigger picture. The one God sees.
Having a baby is one of the most painful things. Know how we get through it? We know we get our CHILD at the end. The pain is worth it. No pain is worth it if we don’t see the value either in it or that comes from it.
Look back to some of worst things that happened in your life. What can you honestly say you learned from that? What can you say you gained because of it? Just as I have gained my life due to my husband losing his job for racist reasons, you can probably find SOMEthing you gained from the difficulties you’ve had or are having. One of them is probably experience that can help someone else!
Check back next week for a little pep talk I’m sure you’ll benefit from!
I was thinking about perspective one day and I created this meme:
I noticed that if you look at the side of the mountain with your head tilted, it looks like just a moderate walk to the top. God often has us look at things differently and do things differently such that it doesn’t feel like an insurmountable task to climb what we thought was a huge mountain.
Sometimes it feels like we’re swimming upstream trying to get things done with a body that doesn’t want to cooperate. Then, suddenly, we hear clearly how the Lord wants us to do it and things seem like we’re just riding the current. So…
Are you swimming upstream or are you letting the Lord lead you? This is part one of a four part series on how we can choose to live our lives joyously in spite of chronic illness or any other difficulties. Life is difficult at best and a mess most of the time. But it’s a wonderful mess that we can stop trying to control and just trust our Lord to take us where He wants us to go.
If you’ve ever been in a river, you know that it’s so much harder to try to swim against the current than to allow it to take you away. Well, that place He’s taking us may not look good, but if we trust Him, it will be a wonderful experience. OR the road there, which at first seems treacherous, may actually be EASY if we stop fighting against it and allow God to guide us.
Example 1: My son. We were heartbroken when we lost several babies to miscarriage after my daughter was born. We went over NINE YEARS without hope because we thought God didn’t want us to have another child. We didn’t trust the Lord to handle the situation as much as we were disappointed that He didn’t give us another child. At first, we were devastated each time we found I wasn’t pregnant. All our energy was focused on that next child until one day we stopped trying and just allowed the Lord to do what He wanted.
Our miracle baby was born 9.5 years after my first. We had wanted two children, a boy and a girl who were about 2-3 years apart. That was our plan. BUT…If I had another child a few years after my daughter was born, I’d never have my incredible son and we would have been empty nesters a LONG time ago!
God knew what He was doing! He gave us what we needed when we needed it. Just as He always does!
Example 2: My cancer journey. I thought it was the most awful thing that could happen to us. My husband was fired with no way to prove it was racially motivated. No job, no income, no insurance. BUT God…
But God had a plan and because of that plan I’m still alive! My husband and I spent hours and hours worrying, planning and doing things that would allow us to make a living until he got another job. Now, the doing WAS needed, but the worrying was NOT! It took so much of my energy of which so little remained as Fibro had hold of it.
After a while the company insurance ran out. It wasn’t that great anyway, but now we had none. We found that the state offered it to those who were in this kind of situation. When the doctor wanted to send me to a specialist and then for testing for a fibroid tumor (which we both knew was almost certainly gone now that I was nearing menopause), I only agreed because she was insistent and it didn’t cost me anything out of pocket.
If my husband still had that job and insurance, I would never have agreed to pay for tests and specialists to find something that was most certainly gone by now. They never would have found a cyst on my ovary that required surgery and they NEVER would have found a rare and very aggressive cancer that almost always takes the woman’s life because it is found too late to cure! I would have been dead long before and you wouldn’t be reading this blog! So, what looked like a disaster to us turned out to save my life!
Since only God can see ahead, we have no idea what He has in store for us that might be better than what we could have even hoped for. We only see the edge of the waterfall. As we are going over Niagra Falls in that barrel, we can only see and feel fear…unless we trust God to take us through. On the other side, we can sometimes look back to see how far He was willing to go to save us or give us what He wanted.
Next week, I’ll be back with some more on how we can find the good in a bad situation.
I pray you’ve had some blessings from reading my summer tips for chronic illness series this month. I have one more to share with you and it’s just some ideas I put together for summer activities for those of us with chronic illness.
The fatigue and pain we have in common are what may keep us from doing things. However, while they may limit the things we choose to do, they don’t have to completely keep us in the house by ourselves (for most of us anyway).
Finding things that are more comfortable to do during the summer may include things that are indoors, require little to no walking, and little to no travel. Here are some ideas I had. I’d love for you to share yours!
One of the activities I discovered during the excruciatingly hot summers in ARIDzona were the summer movie programs most movie theaters hold each year. They show older movies, mostly for children that they rerun in summer months. While you may not want to attend all of the days, you can pick and choose. Many of these movies are kid-friendly but not necessarily cartoons. I’ve enjoyed seeing them again and some for the very first time!
I don’t know if the theaters are open near you, but you could watch a Netflix movie with family or neighbors or you could view it while on a zoom call or phone with someone. Here’s one that came from my son. He loves movies, but during Covid, we couldn’t go to a movie theater so he made a movie marathon at home for his birthday. Have popcorn or your favorite slushies and invite friends or family over.
If you have a pool or live in a community with a pool, especially if it’s an indoor pool, that’s a great idea provided you’re not out too long in the sun or heat. If there’s shade, that’s a great place to sit and watch the kiddies or grandkiddies play and be with loved ones. (Covid not withstanding, of course)
Another great idea for kids activities is in the backyard where you can supervise. They can be playing in the backyard with you in the shade. Childhood games you remember from your youth can be introduced or you can tell stories of your life and ask your kids or grandkids about their favorite things. I used to talk Gameboy with my son.
Board games are another great activity to do with children, but there are some great games now for adults that can be played with visiting family indoors to keep out of the sun.
You can make up your own games for small children. Give them a letter and have them go around the house and find things that begin with that letter. If you have more than one kid, give each one a different letter.
Zoom and other online companies offer free services where you can actually see a friend or family member as you talk to them. I’ve had a weekly Zoom call with my mom, sister, aunt , daughter, and niece. Sort of a girls day in. Whoever can make it each week. It’s been a lot of fun getting to see family I’ve not been able to because we live so far. We’re actually all in five different states. Seeing their faces is sooooo much more fun than just hearing their voice on the phone–especially if you can do it as a group!
I know many of us have a hard time maintaining the energy needed to do day to day things. It seems an insurmountable task at times to think about travel. However, if you can, it’s often a great idea for lifting spirits.
I actually found a great article on the topic and just thought I’d leave that here for you to peruse. It emphasizes talking to your doctor and planning! Planning is a HUGE part of chronic illness life, but just know that as they saying goes…the best laid plans of mice and folks with chronic illness… You may need to make changes as you go.
My only advice to you is to share how I felt when traveling by plane. Plane travel is very difficult with chronic illness. All that waiting in line while standing is very hard. Lugging around luggage is much easier if yours has wheels. Also bring snacks because the food at airports is expensive and you’ll need to wait in another long line to get it.
Long car rides can be difficult too as you’ll be sitting in a cramped environment for a long time and that can wreak havoc on your muscles. I’d suggest stopping often and stretching your legs every few hours if you can. Even an hour car ride for me is a bit hard at times so do what you feel you can.
I can’t really add much more to it other than to say that every individual with chronic illness will be different and may have different needs and limitations at different times.
What are your best travel tips?
Check back next week when I finish the series with summer activity ideas for those of us with chronic illness!
People with chronic illness, particularly fibro are often sensitive to temperature and temperature changes. Heat can aggravate pain and fatigue and cause other heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion as we talked about last week. This week, I’d like to share some tips for beating the heat of the summer for chronic illness. Here’s mine. Feel free to comment and share yours!
1.Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol and caffeine Caffeine and alcohol can get you dehydrated more quickly which is a bigger problem when you add heat to the mix. Stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle or thermos with you in the car and even from room to room in your home. The AC can cool things off but it is also drying the air so hydration is key.
2. Avoid direct sunlight for too long As I pointed out last week, heat issues kind of sneak up on you. Make sure to limit your time in direct sun or heat to avoid the heat illnesses or fatigue creeping up on you.
3. Eat smaller meals Eating smaller meals allows you to avoid getting hungry which can contribute to fatigue. It also allows you to eat more frequently. This keeps you from eating too much at one time which can bring on a food coma. 😀
4. Luke warm showers instead of hot showers Taking luke warm showers instead of using hot water helps keep you from those huge temperature swings. I’ve had to adjust to those. I love taking HOT showers. The kind that my husband says burns his skin! ROFL The heat can help my muscles but it also contributes to my fatigue after a shower.
5. Wear layers especially when going in and out of ac, lightweight light-colored clothing If you’re like me, you can go from freezing to burning up in two seconds flat. I always wear layers to help keep myself regulated. Sometimes I even get both at the same time. I call that FROT. Freezing Hot!
6. Keep medication cool. Some meds are sensitive to the heat and some make you sensitive to heat. (Lupus) It’s best to keep meds out of direct sunlight and away from humidity. Many people keep them in their bathrooms, but that room can get quite muggy from showers. I keep mine in the pantry in the kitchen.
7. Know your limits don’t do too much I’ve said this many times. I have no idea what my limits are and they change from day to day and week to week. But this is something many doctors and articles tell you so I’m including it here. Do the best you can with it. I’ve almost given up trying to figure my body out in this area. LOL
8. Know the signs of dehydration:
Loss of appetite
Dry skin (you no longer sweat)
Decreased urine volume or abnormally dark urine
Come on back next week when I’ll be talking about summer travel tips for chronic illness folks!
So, I was on Facebook this morning when someone posted one of these type sayings in the spirit of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It occurred to me that there’s a chronic illness version of that and here it is…
If you give a chronic illness person a bit of energy, she’s going to want to clean the house. When she begins to clean the house, she will remember that she’s probably better off using her energy to cook some meals ahead of time.
When she begins to cook, she will realize that it’s time she ate something. When she gets to the refrigerator, she will notice she needs to go food shopping.
When she gets back from the store, she’ll realize that she left the stove on and the pot is burned. When she goes to throw the pot into the sink to cool, she’ll have remembered she never ate lunch.
When she returns to the refrigerator, she will remember that she left the groceries in the car. When she finishes putting away the groceries, she’ll notice that the house is even messier than it was this morning.
When she thinks about cleaning the house, her body reminds her that she is out of energy.
And this is why she is found sitting on the floor near the couch in a house that looks like it was ransacked with the ice cream melting on the ground beef that is running down the kitchen counter.
Summer can be a difficult time for those with chronic illnesses. I found an article that shares some Summer Health Risks for Chronic Illness. Some of the things they talk about that will be aggravated by the heat of the summer are migraines, MS, autoimmune conditions, Rosacea, and respiratory illness.
When I was a teen in high school, I used to grab a piece of floor in my bedroom that got the afternoon sun and took an hour nap after walking home from school. I felt better afterward which may have been from the vitamin D in the sunlight. However, too much sun exposure or too much heat can have a negative affect on your fatigue.
Those of us with Fibro or other chronic issues that cause fatigue often don’t realize how much we may be affected by the heat/sun during the summer. I lived in Phoenix for five and a half years so I know first hand how the sun and extreme heat can cause my fatigue to worsen. I had no idea why few ever attended outdoor activities for their kids in Phoenix until I was sitting outside the soccer field (no real shade) and felt a wave of heat stroke come over me. I had heat stroke or heat exhaustion a few times each of the first three summers I was there in ARIDzona!
However, even those in states where it doesn’t get to 120 degrees probably need to be careful of the heat during the summer months. Both heat and humidity can take its toll on those of us with already decreased energy levels.
I can tell you that the affects of heat can sneak up on you. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion came over me suddenly–not slowly. I never knew it was an issue until it suddenly kicked into high gear. So my cautionary tale is one of precaution. Make sure you limit your time in the sun, heat, and humidity.
I’ll be back next week with some ideas on how to do just that.
I have a lot to say about chronic illness because I’ve had it ever since I was a kid and I have had several different diagnoses in my 57 years on this planet. However, I find some of my fellow chronic illness survivors to be so inspiring and their stories share such important perspective and wisdom that I thought I’d share some of them here from time to time.
Tanya is a social media friend. I met her on Facebook and she is also a writer, blogger who shares some wonderful insights about chronic illness and Fibro in particular. She had a post on her blog that she has consented to share with us here.
People have asked me how can I smile while dealing with a lot of health issues. It isn’t always easy yet experiencing twenty- one years of chronic, intense pain, I have learned to use tools that are available to me. I have been in a chronic pain management program, been through tons of Counseling, and researched a lot about the pains and disease such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Syndrome that I deal with. I have learned what medications work or don’t work for me due to trial and error. I have a huge list of meds that I have a bad reaction to.
Another thing I do is when I’m in intense pain, I tend to keep to myself and try to rest and take care of me. I fought doing that for years but when the pain and symptoms became worse, I realized that I need to take care of me, speak up, and be an advocate for me because no one else will do it.
There are days that I’m not smiling but I try to keep my spirit and emotions up by watching funny videos on U-tube, spending time with friends in person, on the phone, or even on Facebook and finding humor in my pain or brain fog I get a lot. Yet the most important thing I have is my faith in God in whom I lean on for daily strength. Without Him, I would be way worse off then I am now. I can’t say it’s been easy or the road I’ve traveled was great. There were times I was mad at God for not healing me but I’ve learned that He is using all this pain I go through so I can identify and encourage others who are dealing with major health issues, as well. So for that, I am grateful.
NOTE: If you are a Chronic Illness Survivor who’d like to share your story of how you got diagnosed, what you learned, what you think people should know about chronic illness, or something else you’d like to share, contact me! I’d like to include one guest post per month if that is possible.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
So, long before we were born, God knew what our lives would look like and He gave us what we needed to do the good works that we were created for. The challenge for us, then, is to seek His guidance in how we do that because life can change drastically for us. While that’s not news to the Lord, it may require some tweaking on our part.
Some Background: I was perusing Facebook the other day when I came across a long time friend’s post (Cindy Rushton) talking about being an overcomer. She posted, “You are designed and destined to be an overcomer!” My first instinct was to be sarcastic so I said, “Well, I certainly have been given enough to overcome!”
As the discussion went on, I relayed how I had to make some adjustments over the years in order to keep writing. The limitations of chronic illness had a profound effect on my ability to write from the thinking process to the physical act of writing. However, I have found workarounds and even changed what I wrote about over the years-lending my voice to different passions I’ve had…and I’m still writing!
I’ve written a lot about my life on this blog and all the adjustments and limitations I have had throughout my years, but I had really never thought much about the ways in which I had to make changes in order to continue writing until one of her last comments to me, “That was powerful!
As I looked at her words typed there to encourage me as she so often does, it suddenly hit me that my writing testimony really IS powerful. Right then and there, I felt the Lord leading me to write a part of my testimony that I had never considered much up until this point.
I was born a writer and I started writing even before I knew the Lord at the age of nine. I wrote poems and songs in my youth. In my teens, I began writing humorous one-liners about life I called JoJoisms. I’ve got well over 700 of them now. When I began homeschooling, I wrote books about communication skills and articles for homeschool magazines. And my most recent writing passion is here writing in support of those (like me) with chronic illness.
Now, when God gives you a passion for something, He doesn’t usually give you a clear path to success. You may have noticed that people who have gone on to incredible things have usually had a lot of struggles along the way. The Lord allows struggles: heartache, difficulties, and trails because many times that is exactly what it takes to get them done.
Have you ever heard of an accomplished pianist, a professional basketball player, a famous band, an accomplished actor, or a prolific writer who went from zero to hero in a straight line? Everyone has struggles to overcome on the way to where God leads them. It’s not the absence of trials that brings success; it’s what you do with them. It’s how you handle them, how you overcome them that defines you.
When God put a calling (writing) on my life, He factored in my limitations, my frailty, my stupidity, my fatigue, my pain, and my stubbornness! And my stubbornness is one of the reasons I didn’t give up my calling, my dream, my purpose, and my ministry! The other is Almighty God. Because…I AM an overcomer. …And I’m still writing!
Pain and Fatigue: One of the first things that began to impact my writing was pain. Arthritis, neuropathy, and Fibromyalgia made my fingers and wrists ache. In addition, God only made me 5′ tall so, when sitting at a normal-sized desk, I was unable to reach the keyboard properly.
My first adjustment was to sit on my legs as I typed. Unfortunately, after doing this for many years, it took quite a toll on my lower back as well. Not too long ago, we solved that problem by switching me over to a laptop computer that I was able to use on the couch.
As the fatigue from Fibro began to increase, I was forced to let go of some of my other online activities in order to have the energy to continue writing. I had begun a copywriting service only to abandon it shortly after it launched as I didn’t have the energy to pursue that stream of income. However, that was for the best as I felt the Lord leading me to write in my own voice. …And I’m still writing!
Broken hand: About six years ago, I broke my hand in three places after a roll-over car accident. My left hand was in a splint for months and when it emerged, I found that my middle finger had decided to hug my ring finger when I made a fist. Not thinking that this was a big issue, I decided not to have another surgery to fix it as I thought it only was an issue of aesthetics.
Not too long after physical therapy, I realized that I would have to relearn how to type! It took me several months to get decent enough to go back to my blogging and about a year for it to become natural. I still can’t snap my fingers with that hand, but fortunately, that’s not a skill that is required to write! …And I’m still writing!
Essential Tremors: A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Essential Tremors. That’s what doctors call it when they can’t find a cause for your shaking. I had always had what I called jitters, but I had been told it was a sugar issue. It’s true that it was worse when I was hungry, but in the last few years, those jitters had followed fatigue and stress as well as JUST BECAUSE.
Further, they had spread from my left hand to my right hand, both legs, and my head when it was particularly bad as well as internal tremors that feel like I’ve just been asked “Your money or your life!” As you might have guessed, it’s even more difficult to type when your fingers have a mind of their own.
Part of the challenge for me now is that I like to write my notes for an article or book in a notebook, but it’s a bit hard to read my writing–even for ME! Lastly, it takes me 10x as long to type (or mistype) or write than it used to. I’ve been known to backspace and retype something six times and still have it come out wonky.
Final Thoughts: The Lord’s call on our lives is still the same, even after the heartbreak of trials and the limitations of this life. It might not look like we expected it to, but it can be even better if we stay the course and cling to Him.
So, it’s been a bit of a journey to overcome these obstacles, but with God’s help, I’m adjusting. …And I’m still writing! What are you still doing with God’s help?
So far this month, I’ve shared my experience with exercise, weight, and, chronic illness as well as my discoveries about protein and fatigue. (By the way, I asked my doctor and she said that it makes sense that someone with fatigue could use more than the RDA of 40 grams of protein especially when that person has Essential Tremors which uses more energy, though it’s never been studied. She said you could do as much as 70 or more depending upon your other healthissues). This week, I’d like to share some of the foods they say to cut out or add that might make a difference for those with chronic illness.
I realize that everyone is unique and that each combination of diagnoses and conditions will contribute to what might be good or bad for you. I’m just going to throw out some articles I found that might help some of you out there to find what might work for you.
The first article I found was from WebMD which listed 10 Amazing Disease Fighting Foods which included berries, dairy, fatty fish, dark leafy greens, whole grains, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans and legumes, nuts, and eggs.
Anti-inflammatory foods 1. Fresh produce. “For anti-inflammation, you want to think red,” she explains. Food like berries, cherries, red cabbage, red onion and red apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid (plant pigment) that fights inflammation.
2. Herbs and spices. Consider adding turmeric (a yellow Indian spice), thyme, oregano, basil and parsley to your dishes to boost flavor and inflammation-fighting properties. “If you use a lot of herbs and spices, you’ll be cutting down on the fats and oils in your food,” says Komar. “You’ll also be getting a lot of chlorophyll and other anti-inflammatory properties.”
3. Healthy fat. Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat with an anti-inflammatory agent. When cooking with fat, avoid soybean and partially hydrogenated oils, as well as butter whenever possible.
4. Fish. Eat fish rich in omega-three fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring, on a regular basis.
Eat eight to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day: Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can ensure the greatest range of nutrients. Foods that are particularly rich in nutrients include broccoli and berries.
Choose whole grains: Whole-grain foods include barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, wheat, and spelt. These foods provide vitamins, protein, and fiber.
Choose healthful oils: Olive oil is a good choice.
Incorporate herbs and spices: Many herbs and spices contain antioxidants, which may help reduce inflammation. Turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon, and many others can offer benefits.
And lists foods to avoid as meats, dairy, additives, and gluten.
What foods have you added or avoided that has actually helped your pain or fatigue?
Don’t forget to come back next week because I have a special treat for you this month! I have a special guest post with a special message for you!